U.S. Department of Defense


Date of this Version



Published in Clinical Neurophysiology 119 (2008) 1951–1965.


Common etiologies of acute traumatic peripheral nerve injury (TPNI) include penetrating injury, crush, stretch, and ischemia. Management of TPNI requires familiarity with the relevant anatomy, pathology, pathophysiology, and the surgical principles, approaches and concerns. Surgical repair of TPNI is done at varying time intervals after the injury, and there are a number of considerations in deciding whether and when to operate. In neurapraxia, the compound muscle and nerve action potentials on stimulating distal to the lesion are maintained indefinitely; stimulation above the lesion reveals partial or complete conduction block. The picture in axonotmesis and neurotmesis depends on the time since injury. The optimal timing for an electrodiagnostic study depends upon the clinical question being asked. Although conventional teaching usually holds that an electrodiagnostic study should not be done until about 3 weeks after the injury, in fact a great deal of important information can be obtained by studies done in the first week. Proximal nerve injuries are problematic because the long distance makes it difficult to reinnervate distal muscles before irreversible changes occur. Decision making regarding exploration must occur more quickly, and exploration using intraoperative nerve action potential recording to guide the choice of surgical procedure is often useful.